Thursday, January 12, 2012

Matthew 4

The Temptation of Jesus

In this chapter the devil is tempting Jesus. Jesus went into the wilderness to fast for forty days and nights. The devil tells him if he is the son of god he should turn the rocks into bread to eat. He responds by saying "man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of god"

I guess the message here is that the word of god is as important as food, even when starving. I do find it interesting that the temptation involves Jesus creating food to eat. Is there also a message here about abusing power? Would the story still work if he had come across some natural food in the wilderness? What if he came across something like manna, which is apparently from God?

Satan then takes him to a high spot and tells Jesus to jump to try and kill himself and god will have his angels save his life. Jesus says he will not put god to the test.

So we are not supposed to test God. 

Satan then took Jesus to a high mountain to see "all the kingdoms of the world" and tells Jesus "All these I will give you if you fall down and worship me". Jesus replies that he will only worship God, and Satan leaves.

I guess the message here is to only worship God and no one else, even if you are promised good things. This is an odd temptation though. Jesus knows he is the son of God (If there was any doubt it should have been removed during the baptism last chapter), so why would he ever worship Satan? 

Jesus Begins His Ministry

John was arrested so he started preaching in his place. He also traveled around which fulfilled some prophecy. He preached that "The kingdom of heaven is at hand"

The way this is written is strange. I can't help but feel there is something more here than I understand. It seems like there is some shoehorning in of prophecy stuff. Also, it sounds like Jesus is preaching doomsday stuff, shouldn't that fall flat 2000 years later. Do people instead interpret it to be talking about going to heaven after you die?

Jesus Calls the First Disciples

Jesus goes up to some fishermen and get them to quit what they are doing and follow him instead. Simon (who is called Peter), Andrew, James, and John.

Doesn't seem like there is much to see here, but I have a few comments. Why "Simon (who is called Peter)"? Why not just "Peter"? 
Also, James and John left their father in the fishing boat to follow Jesus without a second thought apparently. "Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him". This seems like a bad thing to me.

Jesus Ministers to Great Crowds

Jesus went around preaching and healing, even people with demonic possession and paralysis. His fame grew far and wide


  1. I like the message behind the temptations, but I always wondered how the devil can promise worldly things to Jesus/God. Aren't they his to begin with? If not, why not? Is the devil too powerful?

  2. My other question is why none of this has been historically documented elsewhere (all the crazy miracles and his fame). I would think that someone going around healing various "diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics" would be pretty well documented historically with all the historians of the day.

  3. You pose great questions. I will do my best to take a stab at answering some of them...

    1) Satan has a lot of power, but he is also the father of lies (John 8:44), the deceiver (Revelation 12:9), disguise himself as angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), and of course evil. He strives to keep people away from believing in Christ and he worked hard to see God's plan fail. He was not successful and will not be--he's going to face judgement (Matthew 25:41, Revelation 10:10). Satan can promise anything he wants, but that doesn't mean he will fulfill any of his promises.
    2) Everything does belong to God--but He also created free will. Satan (Lucifer) had a free will, and so do humans. Evil exists because of the rejection of God, who is pure goodness and is holy.

    3) The devil might seem too powerful--but his time will come when he won't have that power anymore.

    As for your question about historical documents: the answer is yes and no. There are actual documents that talk about Jesus Christ--but you have to understand that even in that time there were a lot of skeptics... many people, especially the most prominent in Jewish Society would not admit what they were seeing, for example:

    The Talmud is a collection of oral Jewish traditions alongside with comments about historical events--"On the eve of Passover they hanged Yeshu. And an announcer went out, in front of him, for forty days (saying): 'He is going to be stoned because he practiced sorcery and enticed and led Israel astray. Anyone who knows anything in his favor, let him come and plead in his behalf.' But, not having found anything in his favor, they hanged him on the eve of the Passover." There are a few other places in the Talmund that reference Jesus. Keep in mind that this was all recorded by the Pharisees who condemned Him.

    Another entry from that time period was by a Jewish Historian named Flavius Josphesus who wrote this:

    " But to some of the Jews the destruction of Herod's army seemed to be divine vengeance, and certainly a just vengeance, for his treatment of John, surnamed the Baptist. For Herod had put him to death, though he was a good man and had exhorted the Jews to lead righteous lives, to practice justice towards their fellows and piety towards God, and so doing to join in baptism. 3

    ...convened the judges of the Sanhedrin and brought before them a man named James, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, and certain others. He accused them of having transgressed the law and delivered them up to be stoned. 4

    At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good, and [he] was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive;.."

  4. You talked about 2 things that you talked about (the devil and free will) that I find puzzling, perhaps you have thought about them and have some insight. Both relate to the fact that God is all knowing, all loving and all powerful and created everything

    Free Will: Let's think back to the beginning of time, when God is about to create everything. As he is all knowing, he knows exactly what is going to happen until the end of time. This includes all kinds of trivial stuff like whether I was going to eat cereal or a bagel for breakfast this morning (I had cereal btw). So this morning, when I looked in my pantry and saw those 2 options, my free will let me choose between the 2 things, but if God knew since the beginning of time what I would choose, do I really have a choice? Even though I felt like I had a choice, was there never really a chance that I was going to eat that bagel? Is this just the illusion of choice? If so, how does that work with things that are more important, like going to hell for committing a sin? If God knew since the beginning of time that I am going to be tortured for all eternity, why have a universe where I exist at all?

    Satan: Similar question about satan as I had at the end of my above paragraph. If God was creating this angel, he knew that the angel would defect and become the devil. He knew that the devil would be tempting people, which may cause them to go to hell instead of heaven. Some people who would otherwise be good and go to heaven, instead get tempted by the devil and wind up in hell, being tortured forever. Why would a just god create such a creature as the devil?

    In my mind, the simplest explanations involve getting rid of some of God's abilities, either he didn't know Satan was going to defect (not all knowing), or he was constrained by certain rules that makes it so he had to create certain things (not all powerful), or maybe he doesn't care if some people go to hell (not all loving). But assuming he has all 3 it is hard to understand.

    Well, these seem like easy enough topics, we should be able to hash them out in no time :) In all seriousness though Anzhelika, I'm curious if you've thought about these difficulties and if so how you deal with them.

  5. From the same place, the author sums up arguments about these passages in bullet points. These arguments are put together by a Dr Lardner, a christian apologist from the nineteenth century.

    "It was not quoted or referred to by any Christian apologists prior to Eusebius, c. 316 ad.
    "Nowhere else in his voluminous works does Josephus use the word 'Christ,' except in the passage which refers to James 'the brother of Jesus who was called Christ' (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 20, Chapter 9, Paragraph 1), which is also considered to be a forgery.
    "Since Josephus was not a Christian but an orthodox Jew, it is impossible that he should have believed or written that Jesus was the Christ or used the words 'if it be lawful to call him a man,' which imply the Christian belief in Jesus' divinity.
    "The extraordinary character of the things related in the passage--of a man who is apparently more than a man, and who rose from the grave after being dead for three days--demanded a more extensive treatment by Josephus, which would undoubtedly have been forthcoming if he had been its author.
    "The passage interrupts the narrative, which would flow more naturally if the passage were left out entirely.
    "It is not quoted by Chrysostom (c. 354-407 ad) even though he often refers to Josephus in his voluminous writings.
    "It is not quoted by Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople (c. 858-886 ad) even though he wrote three articles concerning Josephus, which strongly implies that his copy of Josephus' Antiquities did not contain the passage.
    "Neither Justin Martyr (110-165 AD), nor Clement of Alexandria (153-217 ad), nor Origen (c.185-254 AD), who all made extensive reference to ancient authors in their defence of Christianity, has mentioned this supposed testimony of Josephus.
    "Origen, in his treatise Against Celsus, Book 1, Chapter 47, states categorically that Josephus did NOT believe that Jesus was the Christ.
    "This is the only reference to the Christians in the works of Josephus. If it were genuine, we would have expected him to have given us a fuller account of them somewhere."

  6. A few other notes about Josephus and why it is probably fraudulent.

    The paragraph is missing from early copies of his works. As noted above, about Origen, he did not cite this paragraph at all in his second century version of Jospehus' works. In Origen Contra Celsum, he fiercely defends Christianity against the heretical Celsus. He often quoted him freely to make his point, but not this paragraph. This would have been a really good one to quote. It does not appear until the fourth century (during Constantine's rule). He had a bishop, whose name was Eusebius. They both were instrumental in coming up with the version that would eventually be considered "orthodox." The bishop even once wrote that it was okay to make stuff up.

    Being a Jew, he probably wouldn't have written "the christ" or "the truth." If he believed that Jesus was the Christ, he probably would have mentioned him quite a bit more than just a fleeting reference in a paragraph. (the whole context)

    "To this day" is also suspect as it kind of points to a later addition. During his time, there was no real "tribe of Christians" so to speak.

    This passage is kind of taken out of context. In book 18, it starts with the Roman taxation under Cyrenuis in (6AD, I had to find this elsewhere). He talks about various Jewish sects in there like a sect of Judas the Galilean (which he actually spends a great deal much more paper on than the Jesus paragraph). If you go to chapter 3, it begins with an uprising against Pilate who wanted to slaughter all the Jews, but changes his mind. He used sacred money to supply water to the city. The Jews weren't happy. With all these troubles going on, the paragraph comes in casually mentioning Jesus. With all the stuff going on, if he didn't think that Jesus was "the Christ" it wouldn't have been just touched on as another bad misfortune.

    He also seems to know nothing about Jesus besides what's in the paragraph. No references to the books of the Gospels or the writings of paul, which if they were floating around at this time, he would have known about. He also fails to mention any of Jesus' great works, like the earthquake or the rising of the dead, darkness etc from Jesus' crucifixion, which would have been pretty well known at the time if they happened. He talks much more about other "prophets" and "messiahs" at the time like Judas of Galilee Theudas the magician and the Eqyption Jew Messiah. (You can find more info by doing searches on these guys and Josephus on google). It's interesting the detail allotted to these guys, but the absence of info from Jesus, if he felt that Jesus was the true savior.

    There is also mention of "divine prophets" that foretold the life of Jesus. He doesn't mention who the prophets were or what they said. He did mention prophets elsewhere in his books and seemed to know quite a bit about them, but fails to mention them here in connection with Jesus. If anybody educated enough that would have known about the bible's divine prophecies, it probably would have been him.

    The other mention is in book 20 (chapter 9), but even Christian scholars will admit that this is a doctored text, so I won't mention it here. He was also a well traveled Military leader in Galilee from 66-73 CE. He documents every important person from the era and all the important events that occurred in the area, but Jesus' events were of "too little consequence" to the people to take note. When we take note of the forgeries, its hard to say what other early documents were forged. =/


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